The hospital was a small one, and at any given time provided care to around seventy five patients. Because it was so small, they mostly only dealt with the most severe of cases, as they had specialised equipment. It was situated in the centre of a rural French town, with a surrounding population of just three hundred people. Most people would travel out of the village to the nearby city to be treated at the larger hospital. This meant that the ICU unit was almost always empty, or home to just one or two patients; today it was just the fireman.
His bed was in the far corner of the room, and as Lena entered the room his shouting stopped. All she could here was the irregular beeping of the electrocardiogram, and his raspy, shallow breaths. He was hooked up to several drips, and had been restrained by several belts that ran across his chest and legs. The beeping grew faster as Lena neared his bed, and his eyes widened. There were no extreme injuries to his face, just a few small cuts and burns, nothing that couldn't be fixed with a simple stitch or ice pack. His hands were hidden under surgical bandages, and Lena couldn't help but feel glad about that. She'd seen them before; she didn't need to see them again.
Unsure of what to say, she stood awkwardly by his side until he tried to move, bucking his hips against the restraints.
“Sir, sir! You can't move, it's alright, just stay still, sir!” She tried to push her rising panic back down her throat as she placed her hands onto the man's legs, keeping them down “You're going to be fine, okay sir?”
The man relaxed his muscles and let his legs fall back onto the bed “The little girl?”
Lena gulped, forcing the lump in her throat back down again “I'm sorry, she died,” her voice wobbled a little, and she couldn't think of anything else to say to the man other than “It's alright.”
It wasn't alright. The man once again struggled against his restrains as he started to shout once more “Where is the little girl? Where is the little girl? Where is-” his voice cracked, and he sobbed “The little girl stays with me.”
“What's your name, sir?” Lena tried desperately to distract him from the death of the little girl by straightening out his sheets and brushing the burnt hair off of his forehead “Your name, sir?”
“Jed.” His voice had grown hoarse and Lena was unsure if she'd heard him right, but went with it anyway.
“Jed? Okay Jed, you are a fireman, yes? Did you try to save the girl from the fire? Is that why you want to be with her?”
His face twitched, as though he were remembering something. A single tear rolled down his left cheek, leaving behind a wet trail of fear. Lena could tell, from where she was stood, that he was scared. And it made her scared too. What was he so afraid of? She reached forward, pulling the sleeve of her lab coat over her hand, and wiped away the tear “Don't worry, Jed. She isn't suffering any more. Did you know her name?”
A smile formed on his lips, and Jed began to laugh. It deeply unsettled Lena, who had to take a step back to compose herself.
“The little girl doesn't have a name. And she stays with me.”
He's suffering from shock, Lena reassured herself, you've dealt with situations like these many times before, get yourself together!
“She can't stay with you, Jed. You know that. Keep talking to me- you're a fireman, yes? Did you always want to be a fireman?” Keeping the patient talking was something Lena had learnt kept them calm. Sustain some normalcy, and maybe they'll momentarily forget the trauma and pain they went through to end up here.
It didn't seem to work on Jed “The little girl bit me. She bit me. The little girl. SHE STAYS WITH ME!”
His scream rang out across the whole floor, yet only Lena heard. It pierced her ears, causing her to grab at them with her now clammy hands. Jed was laughing again, but it wasn't the same manic laughter as before. This time, it was more like hysteric crying, and more tears streamed down his face. Lena hushed him, but it was an unconvincing attempt to calm him down. How could she keep him calm, if she herself was on the brink of a breakdown?
In the basement of the hospital, in the cool room known to staff as the freezer, Gaspard Fabron was busy trying to discover the true extent of the little girl's injuries. Shortly after Henri Du Gruy had sent Lena upstairs, he had sent Gaspard downstairs. It wasn't a job Gaspard particularly wanted to do, but he knew it was necessary. If they knew how bad the injuries could possibly be, then they would have a better knowledge of how to treat the surviving patients.
The freezer room always had a strange atmosphere, or at least it did to Gaspard. He figured it was because it was used to store the deceased until the undertakers arrived to transport the bodies to the morgue, but he couldn't be sure. There was just something about the room that he couldn't put his finger on, and right now, the feeling had suddenly grown a lot worse.
Shaking off the feeling, Gaspard pulled the white sheet off of the little girl and revealed her burnt body. It was barely recognisable as a human being any more; it looked more like an animal caught in a wildfire. She was curled into the fetal position, and Gaspard grimaced as he pulled the charred hands away from the body, straightening her out. What little material which remained of her clothes had already been cut open by other doctors, and so he pulled it off of her. It wasn't only scorched and burnt from the fire, but also wet with blood. He discarded it in the bin that was sat by the wall, to his left.
Usually, the doctors would not perform autopsies on the recently deceased; especially if they knew the cause of death already. But this was not a usual situation, and Gaspard grimaced as he took the scalpel from the tray by the sink and drew it across the skin on her chest with skilled precision. A small tickle of blood spilled down the side of her ribs, which were protruding from a gaping hole in her side. It looked like something heavy had landed on her during the explosion, and it didn't take much pressure to pull the flesh back, revealing her insides. Her lungs were shrivelled, almost half the size that they should have been, and her heart was like nothing Gaspard had ever seen before. He was sure these injuries were no consistent with the nature of the accident that had caused them, but he was also sure that there was a reasonable explanation behind them. Perhaps she'd somehow managed to inhale a flame, or a lot of smoke. He didn't particularly question it, as he was too concerned with making detailed notes on the notepad he'd placed beside her.
Gaspard placed down his biro and replaced it with the enterotome, a tool he wasn't too familiar with. He carefully slid his hand into the girl's now open stomach and used the tool to slice open the intestines; he was wondering how far the flame she may have inhaled could have damaged. The intestines were slippery to handle with his blood-slick plastic gloves, but he managed to get them under his control. There was something stuck in the intestine, a piece of something firm that definitely shouldn't have been there. Gaspard reached for a pair of tweezers, and carefully pulled the thing out. To him, it looked like a little chunk of meat; something that should have been digested. It didn't even look like it'd been chewed or swallowed, and there was no way it would have been able to get into the intestines like that. Now intrigued, he reached again for the scalpel and made an incision in the girl's stomach.
His eyes were met with a sight that could not be scientifically possible. The stomach was full of chunks of meat, like the one he'd found in the intestine. It was as though the girl had swallowed all of these pieces whole, one by one. Even then, they wouldn't be whole like this. There was no bile in the stomach, or any liquid at all. The pieces of meat were almost completely dry, and Gaspard once again switched the scalpel for the tweezers. Upon further inspection, the pieces seem to have bite marks on them- hundred and hundreds of tiny teeth marks that had pierced through the meat with a sharp precision not consistent with human teeth. Gaspard placed the piece down on his tool tray and moved onto the girl's mouth.
He pried open the mouth with just his hands, retching when he felt the skin crack underneath his fingers. The jaw was stiff, but Gaspard forced it down, revealing rows upon rows of pearly white teeth. The teeth were tiny, yet razor sharp, organised into six or seven neat rows that took up most of the mouth. There was no tongue, and the teeth seemed to back all the way down the girl's throat. Gaspard could barely move, paralysed with both fear and wonder. His fingertips brushed gently over the tips of the teeth, which sliced through his gloves and the first few layers of skin on his middle finger. Inhaling quickly, he pulled back his hand and pulled off the glove. It wasn't too bad of a cut, but that wasn't what he was concerned about. He was concerned with the body laying in front of him. Whatever it was, he'd never even read or heard about anything similar to it, let alone seen it first hand.
Whatever this was; it wasn't human.